News Feature | November 18, 2015

Food Waste Next Target For Water Conservation

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water experts are urging ratepayers to look beyond their water bill when they try to conserve this precious resource, arguing that it’s time they consider the amount of food they throw away.

“Tossing an apple is like pouring 25 gallons of water down the drain, and the average American does that 17 times a year,” Smithsonian Mag reported. “Food waste is a staggering problem. In 2010, close to 133 billion pounds, or a little over $160 billion worth of food, wound up in U.S. landfills.”

Water conservation is a major issue for water utilities. Even though cutbacks affect their revenue, policymakers often expect utilities to urge ratepayers to cut back. A survey of industry professionals by the American Water Works Association listed conservation and efficiency as one of the top ten concerns in this industry.

But there are significant ways to for ratepayers to conserve water, beyond just turning off the tap. Kai Olson-Sawyer, an analyst at the GRACE Communications Foundation, a group focused on food, water and energy resources, explained where else savings might be found. “There’s no benefit to wasting food,” she said, per the report. “The fact is that food waste is truly a waste to all humanity of every kind.”

Meat, for instance, requires significant amounts of water for production, including the water that farm animals drink. The report continued:

Fortunately, change at any level — whether it’s as a supplier, retailer or consumer — will help ease the impact of food waste on natural resources. Simply put, “it does matter how much you consume,” says Ruth Mathews, executive director of the Water Footprint Network. “It does matter what you consume, especially when you get down to the details of where this is produced and how sustainable is that production.

The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a project of the federal government, shows that 45 percent of the country is abnormally dry or experiencing drought.

For more drought news, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.